Birdpeople’s background in the small community on Åland is everywhere to be found in the trios electronically oriented music even if they have all left the islands.
Birdpeople are a trio that rose from the ashes of a more conventional rock project, whose relevance seemed to be dwindling. Instead, the group invested in an MS-20 synthesizer and began improvising, sampling and looking for a new artistic direction, where the sounds and moods they wanted became the overriding objective. And on this quest they would no longer be limited by the sonic straightjackets of the traditional rock line-up.
“That is why we bring so much gear along”, says guitarist Jacob Lavonius when we talk to Cecilia Wikström (electronics) in connection with Días Nórdicos in Madrid in October. Because if there are new sounds we want to create, and it turns out we can’t, well then we have to go out buy new gear that can produce those sounds”, he says, and they are both laughing.
Birdpeople are from Åland – the small island community with 30,000 inhabitants. between Sweden and Finland. Åland is part of Finland, but everyone on the islands speaks Swedish.
Growing up on Åland, the trio have known each other for many years but none of them live there anymore. Typically young people leave Åland when they have to begin their further education. Jacob (30) and Cecilia (31) went to Stockholm to study philosophy and mathematics respectively while the group’s drummer/ percussionist Amanda Blomquist (26) has more ties to Finland and is studying philosophy in Helsinki.
After having finished their studies, many Ålanders return when they are going to settle down and have children. Neither of the three members of Birdpeople is there yet. That does not mean they are disowning their formative years and background though. Quite the contrary, there were decent opportunities for young people to play music there. Jacob and Cecilie were attracted to garage and DIY environment and found a haven at Pub Bastun. Amanda, for her part, went to Åland’s Institute of Music in Mariehamm, which really prepares their students for a classical career. Still, the music world is so small that everybody gets to know each other. And that is part of what makes the Åland music scene so vibrant.
The very diverse backgrounds in the band are also one of Birdpeople’s assets according to Jacob and Cecilia, because the three of them have so “extremely different backgrounds” to draw on.
Bird People on stage at Días Nórdicos in Madrid, 2018.
Due to the great distance between the members of the band, they are obviously not together in the practice room every day:
“Instead we have some long, and intense sessions in the summer when we work and write material together. This summer we were in the studio to record,” they explain.
They do not consider themselves a political band, but they relate to the world around them and concrete political situations. In general they have lots of conversations in the band. All the time. And that is reflected in the music. It is also important for them that there is link between the music and the visual dimension when they are playing live:
“It can be contrasts between the video and the music, or maybe the two things form a whole. When you are working with film and music, you are often looking for a kind of logic – some visual home for the sound. But we don’t have a predetermined, fixed expression – people may create their own images and experience the music their way”, they say and add that they are very focused on making sure that their expression does not become fixed and too obvious and one-dimensional.
Is Åland present in your music? And if so, how?
“Well, in the band we definitely share a heritage and culture as well as the experience we have gathered so far. We are a tight unit both as friends and as a band. And the surroundings are part of it even though we also get our inspiration from other things”, says Cecilie. Jacob takes over, “It’s also this thing about living on an island and being surrounded by the sea. I know that when they just think about islands, many of my friends in Stockholm feel trapped… just from thinking of islands! But the thing is, we grew up on the sea. It’s an infinite horizon. All the seas are connected to ours – the entire world is out there. So the sea is not a restraint – on the contrary it’s an ocean of opportunities! In fact for us it’s a bit claustrophobic to be far from the sea – like now in Madrid”, says Jacob and is all smiles. Cecilia rounds it off, “It gives our music a certain mood – On the one hand it is a sort of peace of mind – it’s a world we feel safe in, and a world we are in tune with. Yet, on the other hand it is also unpredictable. The sea can turn against you, at any moment. There are many Åland families who have lost loved ones to the sea and have stood there waiting for someone who never came back.”
Días Nórdicos Latinamerica 2018 is supported by Statens Kunstfond, The Nordics, Instituto Ibero Americano de Finlandia, Nordens Hus in the Faroe Islands, FFT – Den Færøske Sangskriverforening, and Atlantic Airways.
Días Nórdicos Latinamerica 2018 is arranged by ROSA and Zona de Obras in collaboration with Nordens Institut på Åland, Nordens Institut in Greenland, The Animation Workshop, Centro Cultural Recoleta (AR), Sesc (BR), Difusa Fronteira (BR), Plastilina (PE), and Contrapedal (UY).